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State did pay taxes on track after all

State did pay taxes on track after all

New York state paid the $477,806 in property taxes it owed on Saratoga Race Course and its associ

New York state paid the $477,806 in property taxes it owed on Saratoga Race Course and its associated facilities two months ago, county officials said Tuesday.

Just a week ago, county officials had lamented that the money owed on the track hadn’t been paid yet, six months after the county sent the state a bill for the taxes owed.

But it now appears that the bill was paid in May, but because of confusion about it being a new process between the state and county, county officials didn’t realize it until last week when vouchers were being reconciled in the treasurer’s office.

“We were expecting a check, and it was a wire transfer. It was mixed in with other state aid payments, so there was no actual payment of $477,806,” said Spencer Hellwig, the county’s management analyst.

With the discovery, the city of Saratoga Springs has now been forwarded a payment of $305,561 by the county. The county is keeping $172,245 for its own taxes.

Another $117,342 owed to the city for the final quarter of 2008 was received from the state on Monday, Hellwig said, and will be forwarded to the city.

“I am pleased to announce that this important funding will be given to the city of Saratoga Springs at a time when they need it most,” said county Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Johnson, R-Wilton.

The payment was the county’s calculation of the 2009 local property taxes owed on the facilities operated by the New York Racing Association, including Saratoga Race Course, the Oklahoma Training Track and hundreds of horse barn stalls and worker living quarters.

This year is the first time the county has collected property tax payments on the track property from the state. In the past, the taxes were paid by NYRA, which operates Saratoga and two downstate tracks. NYRA officials had assumed that it owned the track properties.

But as part of last year’s 25-year renewal of NYRA’s state racing franchise, the parties agreed that the state owns the 330-acre complex on Union Avenue and NYRA only leases it from the state.

State land is usually tax-exempt. But because having the track become tax-exempt would have such a large negative impact on local communities, the state agreed to make payments in lieu of taxes.

The county sent the state a bill on behalf of itself and the city in February. In May, it received a letter from the state comptroller’s office saying that a voucher was being processed. But as of last Tuesday, county officials were saying that the money hadn’t been received.

State Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and various local officials all made inquiries last week, leading to the realization that the $477,806 had been paid in May.

“Since this is the first year that payments are coming from the state and not NYRA, the process for receiving payments from the state and then distributing the city’s share to them is different than the process we normally follow,” said County Administrator David A. Wickerham.

Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins Jr. said the payment doesn’t impact the city’s $1.8 million deficit, since the city budget already assumed that the money would be received, but getting it is still good news.

“The money has been paid and we’re not going to be short that amount at the end of the year,” Ivins said.

“I wish to thank the governor and his office for keeping their promise to pay Saratoga County and Saratoga Springs in this difficult budget year,” said Supervisor Matthew Veitch, R-Saratoga Springs, chairman of the county Racing Committee.

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